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

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


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



TWO

Just before seven he went down into Bulow Strasse. His Volkswagen was parked a hundred metres up the street, on the left, outside a butchers shop. The owner was hanging plump carcasses in the window. A heaped tray of blood-red sausages at his feet reminded March of something.

Globuss fingers, thats what it was those immense raw fists.

He bent over the back seat of the Volkswagen, tugging his suitcase towards him. As he straightened, he glanced quickly in either direction. There was nothing special to see just the usual signs of an early Saturday morning. Most shops would open as normal but then close at lunchtime in honour of the holiday.

Back in the apartment he made more coffee, set a mug on the bedside table beside Charlie, and went into the bathroom to shave. After a couple of minutes he heard her come in behind him. She clasped her arms around his chest and squeezed, her breasts pressing into his bare back. Without turning round he kissed her hand and wrote in the steam on the mirror: PACK. NO RETURN. As he wiped away the message, he saw her clearly for the first time hair tangled, eyes half-closed, the lines of her face still soft with sleep. She nodded and ambled back into the bedroom.

He dressed in his civilian clothes as he had for Zurich, but with one difference. He slipped his Luger into the right-hand pocket of his trench coat. The coat- old surplus Wehrmacht-issue, picked up cheaply long ago was baggy enough for the weapon not to show. He could even hold the pistol and aim it surreptitiously through the material of the pocket, gangster-style: Okay, buddy, lets go. He smiled to himself. America, again.

The possible presence of a microphone cast a shadow over their preparations. They moved quietly around the apartment without speaking. At ten past eight she was ready. March collected the radio from the bathroom, placed it on the table in the sitting room, and turned up the volume. From the pictures sent in for exhibition it is clear that the eye of some men shows them things other than as they are that there really are men who on principle feel meadows to be blue, the heavens green, the clouds sulphur-yellow It was the custom at this time to rebroadcast the Fuhrers most historic speeches. They replayed this one every year the attack on modern painters, delivered at the inauguration of the House of German Art in 1937.

Ignoring her silent protests, March picked up her suitcase as well as his own. She donned her blue coat. From one shoulder she hung a leather bag. Her camera dangled from the other. On the threshold, she turned for a final look.

Either these "artists" do really see things in this way and believe in that which they represent then one has but to ask how the defect in vision arose, and if it is hereditary the Minister of the Interior will have to see to it that so ghastly a defect shall not be allowed to perpetuate itself- or, if they do not believe in the reality of such impressions but seek on other grounds to impose them upon the nation, then it is a matter for a criminal court.

They closed the door on a storm of laughter and applause.

As they went downstairs, Charlie whispered: How long does this go on?

All weekend.

That will please the neighbours.

Ah, but will anyone dare ask you to turn it down?

At the foot of the stairs, as still as a sentry, stood the concierge a bottle of milk in one hand, a copy of the Volkischer Beobachter tucked under her arm. She spoke to Charlie but stared at March: Good morning, Fraulein.

Good morning, Frau Schustermann. This is my cousin, from Aachen. We are going to record the images of spontaneous celebration on the streets. She patted her camera. Come on, Harald, or well miss the start.

The old woman continued to scowl at March and he wondered if she recognised him from the other night. He doubted it: she would only remember the uniform. After a few moments she grunted and waddled back into her apartment.

You lie very plausibly/ said March, when they were out on the street.

A journalists training. They walked quickly towards the Volkswagen. It was lucky you werent wearing your uniform. Then she really would have had some questions.

There is no possibility of Luther getting into a car driven by a man in the uniform of an SS-Sturmbannfuhrer. Tell me: do I look like an Embassy chauffeur?

Only a very distinguished one.

He stowed the suitcases in the trunk of the car. When he was settled in the front seat, before he switched on the engine, he said: You can never go back, you realise that? Whether this works or not. Assisting a defector theyll think youre a spy. It wont be a question of deporting you. Its much more serious than that.

She waved her hand dismissively. I never cared for that place anyway.

He turned the key in the ignition and they pulled out into the morning traffic.


Driving carefully, checking every thirty seconds to make sure they were not being followed, they reached Adolf Hitler Platz at twenty to nine. March executed one circuit of the square. Reich Chancellery, Great Hall, Wehrmacht High Command building all seemed as it should be: masonry gleamed, guards marched; everything was as crazily out of scale as ever.

A dozen tour buses were already disgorging their awed cargoes. A crocodile file of children made its way up the snowy steps of the Great Hall, towards the red granite pillars, like a line of ants. In the centre of the Platz, beneath the great fountains, were piles of crush barriers, ready to be put into position on Monday morning, when the Fuhrer was due to drive from the Chancellery to the Hall for the annual ceremony of thanksgiving. Afterwards he would return to his residence to appear on the balcony. German television had erected a scaffolding tower directly opposite. Live broadcast vans clustered around its base.

March pulled into a parking space close to the tourist coaches. From here he had a clear view across the lanes of traffic to the centre of the Hall.

Walk up the steps, he said, go inside, buy a guide book, look as natural as you can. When Nightingale appears, bump into him: youre old friends, isnt it marvellous, you stop and talk for a while.

What about you?

When I see youve made contact with Luther, Ill drive across and pick you up. The rear doors are unlocked. Keep to the lower steps, close to the road. And dont let him drag you into a long conversation we need to get out of here fast.

She was gone before he could wish her luck.

Luther had chosen his ground well. There were vantage points all around the Platz: the old man would be able to watch the steps without showing himself. Nobody would pay any attention to three strangers meeting. And if something did go wrong, the throngs of visitors offered the ideal cover for escape.

March lit a cigarette. Twelve minutes to go. He watched as Charlie climbed the long flight of steps. She paused at the top for breath, then turned and disappeared inside.

Everywhere: activity. White taxis and the long, green Mercedes of the Wehrmacht High Command circled the Platz. The television technicians checked their camera angles and shouted instructions at one another. Stallholders arranged their wares coffee, sausages, postcards, newspapers, ice cream. A squadron of pigeons wheeled overhead in tight formation and fluttered in to land beside one of the fountains. A couple of young boys in Pimpf uniforms ran towards them, flapping their arms, and March thought of Pili a stab and closed his eyes for an instant, confining his guilt to the dark.

At five to nine exactly she came out of the shadows and began descending the steps. A man in a fawn raincoat strode towards her. Nightingale.

Dont make it too obvious, idiot

She stopped and threw her arms wide a perfect mime of surprise. They began talking.

Two minutes to nine.

Would Luther come? If so, from which direction? From the Chancellery to the east? The High Command building to the west? Or directly north, from the centre of the Platz?

Suddenly, at the window beside him, a gloved hand appeared. Attached to it: the body of an Orpo traffic cop in leather uniform.

March wound down the window.

The cop said: Parking here suspended.

Understood. Two minutes and Im out of here.

Not two minutes. Now. The man was a gorilla, escaped from Berlin Zoo.

March tried to keep his eyes on the steps, maintain a conversation with the Orpo man, while pulling his Kripo ID out of his inside pocket.

You are screwing up badly, friend, he hissed. You are in the middle of a Sipo surveillance operation and, I have to tell you, you are blending into the background as well as a prick in a nunnery.

The cop grabbed the ID and held it close to his eyes. Nobody told me about any operation, Sturmbannfuhrer. What operation? Whos being watched?

Communists. Freemasons. Students. Slavs.

Nobody told me about it. Ill have to check.

March clutched the steering wheel to steady his shaking hands. We are observing radio silence. You break it and Heydrich personally will have your balls for cufflinks, I guarantee you. Now: my ID.

Doubt clouded the Orpo mans face. For an instant he almost looked ready to drag March out of the car, but then he slowly returned the ID. I dont know

Thank you for your co-operation, Unterwachtmeister. March wound up his window, ending the discussion.

One minute past nine. Charlie and Nightingale were still talking. He glanced in his mirror. The cop had walked a few paces, had stopped, and was staring back at the car. He looked thoughtful, then made up his mind, went over to his bike and picked up his radio.

March swore. He had two minutes, at the outside.

Of Luther: no sign.


And then he saw him.

A man with thick-framed glasses, wearing a shabby overcoat, had emerged from the Great Hall. He stood, peering around him, his hand touching one of the granite pillars as if afraid to let go. Then, hesitantly, he began to make his way down the steps.

March switched on the engine.

Charlie and Nightingale still had their backs to him. He was heading towards them.

Come on. Come on. Look round at him, for Gods sake.

At that moment Charlie did turn. She saw the old man and recognised him. Luthers arm came up, like an exhausted swimmer reaching for the shore.

Something is going to go wrong, thought March suddenly. Something is not right. Something I havent thought of

Luther had barely five metres to go when his head disappeared. It vanished in a puff of moist red sawdust and then his body was pitching forward, rolling down the steps, and Charlie was putting up her hand to shield her face from the sunburst of blood and brain.

A beat. A beat and a half. Then the crack of a high-velocity rifle howled around the Platz, scooping up the pigeons, scattering them like grey litter across the square.


People started to scream.

March threw the car into gear, flashed his indicator and cut sharply into the traffic, ignoring the outraged hooting-across one lane, and then another. He drove like a man who believed himself invulnerable, as if faith and willpower alone would protect him from collision. He could see a little group had formed around the body which was leaking blood and tissue down the steps. He could hear police whistles. Figures in black uniforms were converging from all directions Globus and Krebs among them.

Nightingale had Charlie by the arm and was propelling her away from the scene, towards the road, where March was braking to a halt. The diplomat wrenched open the door and threw her into the back seat, crammed himself in after her. The door slammed. The Volkswagen accelerated away.


We were betrayed.

Fourteen men summoned; now fourteen dead.

He saw Luthers hand outstretched, the fountain bursting from his neck, his trunk exploded toppling forwards. Globus and Krebs running. Secrets scattered in that shower of tissue; salvation gone

Betrayed


He drove to an underground parking lot just off Rosen Strasse, close to the Borse, where the Synagogue used to stand a favourite spot of his for meeting informers. Was there anywhere more lonely? He took a ticket from the machine and pointed the car down the steep ramp. The tyres cried against the concrete; the headlights picked out ancient stains of oil and carbon on the floors and walls, like cave paintings.

Level two was empty on Saturdays, the financial sector of Berlin was a desert. March parked in a central bay. When the engine died the silence was complete.

Nobody said anything. Charlie was dabbing at her coat with a paper handkerchief. Nightingale was leaning back with his eyes closed. Suddenly, March slammed his fists down on the top of the steering wheel.

Whom did you tell?

Nightingale opened his eyes. Nobody.

The Ambassador? Washington? The resident spy-master?

I told you: nobody. There was anger in his voice.

This is no help, said Charlie.

Its also insulting and absurd. Christ, you two

Consider the possibilities/ March counted them off on his fingers. Luther betrayed himself to somebody -ridiculous. The telephone box in Billow Strasse was tapped impossible: even the Gestapo does not have the resources to bug every public telephone in Berlin. Very well. So was our discussion last night overheard? Unlikely, as we could hardly hear it ourselves!

Why does it have to be this big conspiracy? Maybe Luther was just followed.

Then why not pick him up? Why shoot him in public, at the very moment of contact?

He was looking straight at me Charlie covered her face with her hands.

It neednt have been me, said Nightingale. The leak could have come from one of you two.

How? We were together all night.

Im sure you were. He spat out the words and fumbled for the door. I dont have to take this sort of shit from you. Charlie youd better come back to the Embassy with me. Now. Well get you on a flight out of Berlin tonight and just hope to Christ no one connects you with any of this. He waited. Come on.

She shook her head.

If not for your sake, then think of your father.

She was incredulous. Whats my father got to do with it?

Nightingale hauled himself out of the Volkswagen. I should never have let myself be talked into this insanity. Youre a fool. As for him he nodded towards March -hes a dead man.

He walked away from the car, his footsteps ricocheting around the deserted lot loud at first, but fast becoming fainter. There was the clang of a metal door banging shut, and he was gone.

March looked at Charlie in the mirror. She seemed very small, huddled up in the back seat.

Far away: another noise. The barrier at the top of the ramp was being raised. A car was coming. March felt suddenly panicky, claustrophic. Their refuge could serve equally well as a trap.

We cant stay here, he said. He switched on the engine. We have to keep moving.

In that case I want to take more pictures.

Do you have to?

You assemble your evidence, Sturmbannfuhrer, and Ill assemble mine.

He glanced at her again. She had put aside her handkerchief and was staring at him with a fragile defiance. He took his foot off the brake. Crossing the city was risky, no question, but what else were they to do? Lie behind a locked door waiting to be caught?

He swung the car round in a circle and headed towards the exit as headlights flashed in the gloom behind them.


| Fatherland | THREE