Traveling to Berlin
The morning light faded through the thin lace drapes, giving the dusty room some life. There light bounced off a head of thick golden hair and sun-burnt skin. Volkner sat at the edge of the small bed with his back arched, face in hands and elbows resting on his knees. “God, am I tired,” the German mumbled as he looked around the room once more before standing up. It was too hot to sleep the night before, so Volkner only got a few hours of rest, hopefully Clarence had a better experience. Walking out of the room and into the main part of the cabin, there stood Amou Romaine, their newly founded French ally, and Clarence sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee.
“Oh my! You look as if you hadn’t slept a wink!” Clarence exclaimed, passing her full mug of coffee Volkner’s way. “You need this more than I do.”
There it was again, Volkner thought to himself as a smile snuck past him. He loved her unique accent, something he had never heard before. Was that why it was so intoxicating? “Danke,” Volkner replied, taking the cup and a seat near the two. Just one sniff and he could confirm that this stuff was strong, but would it wake him up was the question. A sip to test how hot it was, then another for flavor, and lastly a large gulp. The affects were almost immediately, as his eyes didn’t droop as much and a weight was being lifted from his shoulders.
“Amou offered to make us breakfast and lunch for us to go,” Clarence added, smiling up at the old man before turning her gaze back to the German.
“Whatever you like, I’ll make,” the Frenchman continued, his accent heavy and pleasant.
“Thank you, Herr Romaine, anything you can offer will help us on our journey for sure,” Volkner said after taking another drink of the coffee. This lead to the man only nodding and heading into the kitchen to fetch the coffee pot and another mug for Clarence. While Amou was gone, Volkner turned to Clarence and sighed. “We must leave right after Frühstück if we are to make decent time. I was thinking about taking a train to Germany, but with you with me that will be hard.”
Clarence only tapped her fingers, trying to think of an idea. “How about I am deaf? Can’t hear a thing so can’t talk, would that work?”
“We can at least give it a try. Everything to do with transportation will be controlled by the Nazis and we don’t have any identification. Another problem is finding someone who will recognize me. If that happens then we’re done for, they will report me as a deserter and we both will be arrested and probably shot,” Volkner added casually. It was how things worked, if you were found a traitor, you were killed. As simple as that.
“It’s worth a try,” Clarence assured just as Amou walked back to the table with the coffee. He handed them to the designated person and smiled at Clarence, “Care to help me cook?” There was a short nod as she stood and headed for the kitchen.
“Is there anything you need me to do while you two are working?” Volkner asked, taking a drink of his coffee before setting it down on the table and standing up.
“Gather the chickens into their pen and pull the weeds from the garden is all I ask of you.” Volkner nodded his response and headed outside. It was nice this morning, the breeze was strong enough to keep the sweat at bay and the smell of summer was in the air.
First was the chickens, and when the mutt came padding up to Volkner’s side, the two ran around the entire farm trying to chase the chickens. They were quick, as Volkner would sneak up behind one and ready to lunge, but the chicken would catch wind of him and take off without a second to spare. It took the German a good 30 minutes to complete the first job, and the second went by quickly as the garden was small.
“Hey, Volkner, breakfast is finished,” Clarence yelled from the door before returning inside. The tall blonde stretched his back and wiped his hands on his already dirty pants and headed inside the cabin. There the smell of food hit him in the face, and did it smell great. On the table were pastries, breads, sliced meat, and a few vegetables. It wasn’t much, but it was more than what Volkner and Clarence could ever ask for.
Everyone sat down and the Frenchman and Clarence said their prayer while Volkner silently said his, and they ate. At first no one talked, but soon after Amou picked up the first topic, “So Clarence tells me you two are leaving after we eat, no? Well I’ve placed some jarred food in your bags, it’s only a few jars as that is all I can spare, but I hope it will do you some good in times of need. Also, a few Nazi’s came through here months ago and paid be for some livestock. I know you will be needing it more than I, so I have also placed that into your bags. ”
“Thank you again,” Volkner said as he took another bite of the pastry. It was sweet and lemony and it went great with the coffee he was drinking. “Everything you have done for us has been great, and I don’t think I could ever repay you-“ Volkner started, but was cut off.
“The only payment I require is that you two get ‘em and come back here safely to share some more bread with me!” the man exclaimed with a sincere laugh, Clarence must have told him of their plans.
Packs on their backs and a fresh set of clothing and the two were off. Back down the road they arrived on, they had to find a nearby town with a train station so they could make their way into Germany. That is when Volkner had remembered a nearby town, a smile was plastered to his face. “Fraulein, do you have the maps still?” Clarence only nodded before reaching into the side pocket of her pack and handed him a folded up piece of paper. Volkner slowly unfolded it and sighed in relief. “If we are where I think we are, the nearest town will only be 26 meters if we follow the main road.”
Handing the map back to the American, Volkner continued backtracking until there came a fork in the road. They took the path they hadn’t gone down yet and made their way silently down the path. It was overgrown in some places, but it lead them directly where they needed to go, to the main road. It was unoccupied because everyone was currently battling in Normandy, most of it would be barricaded further down in the opposite direction, so hopefully they wouldn’t run into any trouble.
The sun was beating down on their backs now as they continued to make their way down the road, and sure enough Caen came into sight. Their little town held the only train station this side of France that went directly to Paris, and that is where their first stop has to be. “Ready to see Paris?” Volkner turned to Clarence and smiled, hopefully things will go their way.
"Paris?” Clarence asked, almost surprised, “Why would we go there?”
“We are going to have to hit four major cities. Caen, Paris, Nuremberg, and then Berlin. These four cities will be heavily occupied by the Nazis, especially Berlin, as that is where Hitler resides. It will take a while, and we will probably stay in each city for a night or two, even longer if we run into trouble, but we will make it to Berlin.”
“Nuremberg? Didn’t you say you lived there?” Clarence asked, looking up at the tall blonde. Volkner only nodded, looking forward on the road. It was fields on either side, but as they came closer to the city, houses began to dot the countryside until they came in groups. “Is this Caen?” the nurse asked, looking at all the buildings and people walking around. In their eyes these two were just average everyday people, thankfully.
“It is, and we will have to find the train station. Because you can read and speak French, you will do the talking, but the moment we lay eyes on a German, our plan will be in full effect.”
The two walked silently beside each other while Clarence guided them. Walking past person after person, they received no suspicious looks and passed no Nazis. There was a small crowd in front of the train station who looked to be French soldiers, so placing a large hand on Clarence’s shoulder, they continued within the line until a French soldier stopped the couple and began asking questions. Volkner couldn’t understand a single word he was asking, but Clarence talked just as quickly as he was. The two ended with small smiles before being let through the doors.
“What did he say?” Volkner whispered, looking around to see if there were anymore soldiers.
“He was just askin’ us where we intended on goin’ and what business we had there, then he asked me a little about you. I told him you were deaf and we were headed to Berlin in search for family, small thin’s like that really.” Clarence gave him a sweet smile before leading the two to the shortest ticket line. Volkner looked up at the billboard and saw they had an hour wait for their train, so he dug through his bag and got out some money and handed it to Clarence.
They waited in the line for what seemed like hours, but they eventually got to the front and was talking to the woman behind a glass pane. Smoke swirled around their little room as more than half of the women handing over tickets were smoking, making the whole place smell awful. The woman spoke in French, so Clarence did what she was to do and handed over the money, received some change back, and was handed the paper tickets.
“Ready to ride this train?” Clarence asked, her voice filled with sarcasm. It was going to be long, but they still had to sit down and wait for their train to be called. So finding two empty seats, the two sat in silence scanning over the people around them, and that is when Volkner saw them. Twisting to his left, the man grabbed a newspaper and unfolded it, using the pages to shield his face.
“Nazis are entering the building, if one comes over here, don’t say a word, just look at him stupidly or something,” Volkner whispered as he continued to read the paper. Most of it was in French, but a few articles were in German, though all were about Hitler and his next speech or the war.
Loud tapping shoes in unison could be heard in echo as everyone began to hush, and it sounded like they were headed straight for Volkner and Clarence. Trying not to tighten his grip on the newspaper, the German sat there with his eyes closed tightly and held his breath, fearing that they were indeed coming for them.
“Excuse me, sir,” a voice rang out. It was deep and raspy, the accent of a German, but they spoke in English.
Volkner was forced to open his eyes and lower the newspaper, where he was better able to look the Nazi in the face. “Yes?” he replied, he asserted his voice just as loudly, but it was polite and calm.
“I happened to notice one side of your trousers was covered in blood, do you need medical help?” the soldier said, his face much kinder after learning this blonde man was in fact German.
Volkner tried to make a smile as genuine as possible as he bent over to look at this leg, “Oh that? No I’ll be fine. I had cut my leg on some metal out in the yard and it must have bled through the bandage. I have enough supplies in this bag to care for it, thank you for informing me though.” He patted the bag as he talked and looked up at the Nazi before him with another smile.
“As long as you know, a woman was concerned and asked me to speak to you, but you two have a lovely day,” the man said with a small nod before formally turning around and heading off.
Volkner exhaled loudly when the men left, they hadn’t noticed him. Grabbing his bag, Volkner headed for the restroom to change the bandage and try and get some of the blood from his pants. The amount wasn’t large enough to really worry about, but it was noticeable enough to know that it was in fact blood.
“Train for Berlin is ready to board,” announced by a voice over the announcement speaker, and repeated it two other times, once in French, second in German. Volkner met up with Clarence and they merged with a large group that headed for the exact train. Surprisingly, most were French, what purpose could they have in Germany?
After finding a spot on the train and settling down, Clarence dozed off on Volkner’s shoulder and he just looked around the train.
“You have a beautiful wife,” an elderly woman sitting next to Clarence mentioned, she was French by accent and her smile was kind.
“Thank you, but she’s not my wife,” Volkner said with a smile. He shifted some to make himself more comfortable and better able to look at the woman who was talking to him.
“Well she is beautiful, don’t let that one slip out of your fingers,” she joked, giving the man another broad smile. “So, is she German as well?” the woman asked almost instantly after she stopped talking. Was she nosy or just looking for someone to talk too?
“No,” Volkner started, but thought for a second to think of what to say. American, is what he should of said, but instead he lied, “She’s French. We met in Normandy before the bombing and have been together since.”
The old woman just smiled and nodded her head, “You know, my husband was German. In that time my parents thought to have a heart attack because they wanted me to marry some nice French boy, but I found out that I didn’t like any of the boys in my town, so when we went to Germany for a week, I met Haydn. He was a soldier like most men his age and was on leave, we spent that entire week together and that was the best week I had ever had. I never let him go, we would send letters back and forth, and one day when he was out of the army he surprised me at my house. We eventually got married and the rest is old news.”
Volkner thought for a moment and gave the woman a sad smile, “I’m guessing he’s no longer alive?”
“No, I go to Berlin every year on the day we met after he passed,” the woman said, but began to laugh. “I’m not sure what killed him, one to many Bratwursts or my cooking.” At least she could find some humor in this sad topic. “But the reason why I talked to you is because you remind me of my Haydn, you have an emotionless expression on your face and your body language tells others you are confident and proud, but your eyes tell it all. If you’re happy, sad, worried, all emotions you wouldn’t dare show to others can be seen through your eyes, but only by those who know where to look.”
Volkner was confused by now. “Meine Augen?” he mumbled, all he could think was how could someone tell what he was feeling just through his eyes?
“Ja, deiner Augen,” the woman repeated, her smile faded as she turned her head and hummed softly to herself. The estimated time to get to Paris was two hours, so that gave them enough time to grab something to eat and catch their next train for Nuremberg, Germany.
When the two hours were almost up, a man in front of Volkner stood and reached into his pocket, there he pulled a small handgun and pointed it straight at the German. “You,” he spat out, the gun making a soft rattling noise as he shook from adrenaline, “Your kind killed my family!”
A woman screamed, waking up Clarence who was about to ask what was going on, until she saw the gun. Gasping to herself, she sat straight up and looked over at Volkner, just as confused as he was. “I can assure you I didn’t kill your family, and what do you mean by my kind? I am a human like you,” Volkner started slowly, holding his hands up. “Put the weapon down, now.”
“What’s he talkin’ ‘bout,” Clarence asked, turning her head to Volkner then to the man.
“Your kind killed my family! The Nazi filth that plagues these lands, and you are one of them, so you must die!” The man pulled the hammer back on the gun and squeezed the trigger, but because of the jolting of the train and his shaky hands, the man shot through the glass just to the side of Volkner’s head. This gave the German a chance to counter his attack, so standing up quickly and taking the man to the ground, he swatted the gun from his hand and held him down.
“Don’t touch me filth!” the man spat again, trying to wiggle out of Volkner’s tight grip but failing.
“You can leave it to me,” a familiar voice echoed through the silent car as the same tapping of shoes came forward. It was that Nazi soldier who commented about Volkner’s bloody leg back at the station, was he going to Berlin as well?
Volkner slid off the man and looked up at the soldier, and with a nod he returned to his seat. The soldier ordered his men to capture the victor and haul him to another cart. Wind from the hole in the glass made all the papers fly and a few people’s hats went with them. “If everyone would be as kind as to follow my men to the next cart, that would be great,” the soldier ordered before watching his men turn around and head for the door. Paris would be coming up soon, but no doubt their train would be delayed a bit longer after this incident.
“No normal civilian would have the guts to do what you had done,” the Nazi soldier came up to Volkner patted his back and smiled, “At least no one but a fellow German.”
Volkner only smiled, he wanted to recoil from his touch, but there would be no way of getting out of his grip if he tried. Volkner was a few inches taller, and outweighed him by quite a bit, but he was outnumbered because of his men and no telling who else on this train.
“How about you join me in my cart? You and your companion,” the Nazi offered, nodding towards Clarence and giving her a smile. She wasn’t a blonde, but her eyes were light enough to be somewhat acceptable.
“Looks like we don’t have much choice,” Volkner agreed, taking Clarence’s hand and waited for the man to reply.
“Gut, gut,” the Nazi smiled before turning around and headed for the more luxurious cars.