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SIX

Time crawled on all fours, broken-backed. He was shivering. His teeth chattered like a clockwork toy. Other prisoners had been here years before him. In lieu of tombstones they had scratched on the cells walls with splintered fingernails. J.F.G. 22.2.57. Katja. H.K. May 44. Someone had got no further than half the letter E before strength or time or will had run out on them. Yet still this urge to write

None of the marks, he noticed, was more than a metre above the floor.

The pain in his hand was making him feverish. He had hallucinations. A dog ground his fingers between its jaws. He closed his eyes and wondered what time was doing now. When he had last asked Krebs it had been what? almost six. Then they had talked for perhaps another half-hour. After that there had been his second session with Globus -infinite. Now this stretch alone in his cell, slithering in and out of the light, tugged one way by exhaustion, the other by the dog.

The floor was warm to his cheek, the smooth stone dissolved.


He dreamed of his father his childhood dream the stiff figure in the photograph come to life, waving from the deck of the ship as it pulled out of harbour, waving until he had dwindled to a stick-figure, until he disappeared. He dreamed of Jost, running on the spot, intoning his poetry in his solemn voice: You throw food to the beast in man/That it may growHe dreamed of Charlie. But most often he dreamed he was back in Pilis bedroom at that dreadful instant when he understood what the boy had done out of kindness -kindness! when his arms were reaching for the door but his legs were trapped and the window was exploding and rough hands were dragging at his shoulders


The jailer shook him awake.

On your feet!

He was curled up tight on his left side, foetus-like his body raw, his joints welded. The guards push awoke the dog and he was sick. There was nothing in him to bring up, but his stomach convulsed anyway, for old times sake. The cell retreated a long way and came rushing back. He was pulled upright. The jailer swung a pair of handcuffs. Next to him stood Krebs, thank God, not Globus.

Krebs looked at him with distaste and said to the guard: Youd better put them on at the front.

His wrists were locked before him, his cap was stuffed on his head, and he was marched, hunched forward, along the passage, up the steps, into the fresh air.

A cold night, and clear. The stars sprayed across the sky above the courtyard. The buildings and the cars were silver-edged in the moonlight. Krebs pushed him into the back seat of a Mercedes and climbed in after him. He nodded to the driver: Columbia House. Lock the doors.

As the bolts slid home in the door beside him, March felt a flicker of relief.

Dont raise your hopes, said Krebs. The Obergruppen-fuhrer is still waiting for you. We have more modern technology at Columbia, thats all.

They pulled out through the gates, looking to any who saw them like two SS officers and their chauffeur. A guard saluted.

Columbia House was three kilometres south of Prinz

Albrecht Strasse. The darkened government buildings quickly yielded to shabby office blocks and boarded-up warehouses. The area close to the prison had been scheduled for redevelopment in the nineteen-fifties, and here and there Speers bulldozers had made destructive forays. But the money had run out before anything could be built to replace what they had knocked down. Now, overgrown patches of derelict land gleamed in the bluish light like the corners of old battlefields. In the dark side-streets between them dwelt the teeming colonies of East European gastarbeiter.

March was sitting stretched out, his head resting on the back of the leather seat, when Krebs suddenly leaned towards him and shouted: Oh, for fucks sake! He turned to the driver: Hes pissing himself. Pull over here.

The driver swore, and braked hard.

Open the doors!

Krebs got out, came round to Marchs side, and yanked him out. Quickly! We havent got all night! To the driver: One minute. Keep the engine running.

Then March was being pushed stumbling across rough stones, down an alley, into the doorway of a disused church, and Krebs was unlocking the handcuffs.

Youre a lucky man, March.

I dont understand

Krebs said: Youve got a favourite uncle.

Tap, tap, tap. From the darkness of the church. Tap, tap, tap.

You should have come to me at once, my boy, said Artur Nebe. You would have spared yourself such agony. He brushed Marchs cheek with his fingertips. In the heavy shadows, March could not make out the detail of his face, only a pale blur.

Take my pistol. Krebs pressed the Luger into Marchs left hand. Take it! You tricked me. Got hold of my gun. Understand?

He was dreaming, surely? But the pistol felt solid enough

Nebe was still talking a low, urgent voice. Oh March, March. Krebs came to me this evening shocked! so shocked! told me what you had. We all suspected it, of course, but never had the proof. Now youve got to get it out. For all our sakes. Youve got to stop these bastards Krebs interrupted: Forgive me, sir, our time is almost gone. He pointed. Down there, March. Can you see? A car.

Parked under a broken street lamp at the far end of the alley March could just see a low shape, could hear a motor running.

What is this? He looked from one man to the other. Walk to the car and get in. Weve no more time. I count to ten, then I yell.

Dont fail us, March. Nebe squeezed his cheek. Your uncle is an old man, but he hopes to live long enough to see those bastards hang. Go on. Get the papers out. Get them published. Were risking everything, giving you a chance.

Take it. Go.

Krebs said: Im counting: one, two, three March hesitated, started to walk, then broke into a loping run. The car door was opening. He looked back. Nebe had already disappeared into the dark. Krebs had cupped his hands to his mouth and was starting to shout.

March turned and struggled towards the waiting car where a familiar voice was calling: Zavi! Zavi!


| Fatherland | PART SEVEN FUHRERTAG