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Midnight peals of bells rang out to welcome the day. Drivers whipped past, flashing their head-lights, hammering their horns, leaving a smear of sound hanging over the road behind them. Factory hooters called to one another across Berlin, like stationary trains.

My dear old friend, what have they done to you? Max Jaeger was trying to concentrate on driving, but every few seconds his head would swivel to the right, in horrified fascination, to the passenger seat beside him. He kept repeating it: What have they done to you? March was in a daze, uncertain what was dream and what reality. He had his back half-turned and was staring out of the rear window. Where are we going, Max?

God alone knows. Where do you want to go? The road behind was clear. March carefully pulled himself round to look at Jaeger. Didnt Nebe tell you?

Nebe said youd tell me.

March looked away, at the buildings sliding by. He did not see them. He was thinking of Charlie in the hotel room in Waldshut. Awake, alone, waiting for him. There were still more than eight hours to go. He and Max would have the Autobahnen almost to themselves. They could probably make it.

I was at the Markt, Jaeger was saying. This was about nine. The telephone rings. Its Uncle Artur. Sturmbann-fuhrer! How good a friend is Xavier March?

Theres nothing I wouldnt do, I said by this time, the word was out about where you were. He said, very quietly: All right, Sturmbannfuhrer, well see how good a friend you are. Kreuzberg. Corner of Axmann-weg, north of the abandoned church. Wait from quarter to midnight to quarter past. And not a word to anyone or youll be in a KZ by morning. That was it. He hung up.

There was a sheen of sweat on Jaegers forehead. He glanced from the road to March and back again. Fuck it, Zavi. I dont know what Im doing. Im scared. Im heading south. Is that okay?

Youre doing fine.

Arent you glad to see me? asked Jaeger.

Very glad.

March felt faint again. He twisted his body and wound down the window with his left hand. Above the sound of the wind and the tyres: a noise. What was it? He put his head out and looked up. He could not see it, but he could hear it overhead. The clatter of a helicopter. He closed the window.

He remembered the telephone transcript. What do I want? What do you think 1 want? Asylum in your country

The cars dials and gauges shone a soft green in the darkness. The upholstery smelled of fresh leather.

He said: Where did you get the car, Max? It was a Mercedes he saw: the latest model.

From the pool at Werderscher Markt. A beauty, yes? Shes got a full tank. We can go anywhere you want. Anywhere at all.

March began to laugh then. Not very hard and not for very long because his aching ribs soon forced him to stop. Oh Max, Max, he said, Nebe and Krebs are such good liars, and youre so lousy, I almost feel sorry for them, having to have you on their team.

Jaeger stared ahead. Theyve pumped you full of drugs, Zavi. Theyve hurt you. Youre confused, believe me.

If theyd picked any other driver but you, I might almost have fallen for it. But you Tell me, Max: why is the road behind so empty? I suppose, if youre following a shiny new car thats packed with electronics and transmitting a signal, you neednt come closer than a kilometre. Especially if you can use a helicopter.

I risk my life, whined Jaeger, and this is my reward.

March had Krebss Luger in his hand his left hand, it was awkward to hold. Nevertheless he managed a convincing enough show of digging the barrel into the thick folds of Jaegers neck. Krebs gave me his gun. To add that essential touch of authenticity. Not loaded, Im sure. But do you want to take that risk? I think not. Keep your left hand on the wheel, Max, and your eyes on the road, and with your right hand give me your Luger. Very slowly.

Youve gone mad.

March increased the pressure. The barrel slid up the sweaty skin and came to rest just behind Jaegers ear.

All right, all right.

Jaeger gave him the gun.

Excellent. Now, Im going to sit with this pointed at your fat belly, and if you try anything, Max anything Ill put a bullet in it. And if you have any doubts about that, just sit there and work it out. And youll conclude Ive got nothing to lose.


Shut up. Just keep driving on this road until we reach the outer Autobahn.

He hoped Max could not see his hand trembling. He rested the gun in his lap. It was good, he reassured himself. Really good. It proved they had not picked her up. Nor had they discovered where she was. Because if they had managed either, they would never have resorted to this.

Twenty-five kilometres south of the city, the lights of the Autobahn looped across the darkness like a necklace.

Great slabs of yellow thrust out of the ground bearing in black the names of the Imperial cities: clockwise from Stettin, through Danzig, Konigsberg, Minsk, Posen, Krakau, Kiev, Rostov, Odessa, Vienna; then up through Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and Hanover to Hamburg.

At Marchs direction, they turned anti-clockwise. Twenty kilometres later, at the Friedersdorf intersection, they forked right.

Another sign: Liegnitz, Breslau, Kattowitz

The stars arched. Little flecks of luminous cloud shone above the trees.

The Mercedes flew down the slip road and joined the moonlit Autobahn. The road gleamed like a wide river. Behind them, sweeping round to follow, he pictured a dragons tail of lights and guns.

He was the head. He was pulling them after him away from her, along the empty highway towards the east.