MILITARY TRIBUNAL, NUREMBERG
“So, how was the trip home?” Harrison leaned against the office door as Ross moved things from his briefcase to his desk. “Figured you’d be gone at least a month.”
Finished, he beckoned Harrison inside while seating himself. “I had time to spend time with my family and check out things back home. Saw what waited there, and coming back seemed the best option. What’ve you been up to?”
Ross didn’t add that with his old job gone and no money to support himself while attending law school, he had little choice but return. His decision devastated his parents. His mother wanted to parade him around the eligible young ladies. After he announced his return to Europe, she cried every night. His father’s recovery from his spiritual reawakening, brought on by the war, ended as he retreated again into daily trips to the temple. He cut his leave short to escape his parents’ agony.
“I helped with that new Constabulary unit they’re forming and ran into an old friend of ours.” Harrison told Ross about Willi.
“So, he agreed to work for us as an informant?”
“Yeah, I don’t know that we need something like that in this job, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. It’s easy to make enemies, making friends is hard. I figure you should hang on to whoever you get.”
“You’re right. With this Doctor thing they gave us, I’m not sure what we’ll need or when. When I worked at NYPD, we cultivated snitches. You never know when you might need them or what they might bring. After you retire, you ought to become a cop.”
Harrison scoffed. “You mean the son and grandson of the most notorious West Virginia bootleggers should jump ship and become a Revenuer? That’ll be the day.”
Ross held up a sheet. “This is a list of our defendants.” He passed the paper to Harrison. “The prosecutor wants to move forward with indictments on these characters this spring, so we’ll need to get started.”
Harrison’s eyebrows rose as he studied the sheet. “What the hell? These all doctors?”
“They killed people who were insane or feebleminded. They performed experiments on inmates that were mostly sham forms of torture or murder. Ever see that Boris Karloff movie where the doctor puts together that monster then brings it to life?”
“That’s the one. These doctors make Frankenstein look like Father Christmas.”
Harrison tossed the sheet on the desk. “So, where do we start?”
“There’s a main file room here, right?”
“Yeah, downstairs. Run by a Major Worth.”
“First, we introduce ourselves to the good Major. After that, we wade through all the files he has on these assholes.”
Outside the room designated as the file room, a man with gold leaves on his collar sat at a desk reading from a folder. Bald with a black fringe, the lights reflected from his glasses as he glanced up from his reading.
Both Ross and Harrison snapped to attention at his side while saluting. “Major Worth?”
The Major fumbled the papers from his hands as he rose to his feet. As if realizing his status as the ranking officer for the first time, he saluted, then smiled. “You must forgive me, but with the big trial starting, I didn’t expect anybody today. Can I help you, gentleman?”
“I am Captain James Ross, and this is Sergeant Beau Harrison?”
“You must excuse me. Not used to all this military protocol.” He extended his hand to Ross. “James?”
Once Ross released his hand, he extended it to Harrison. “Beau. Is that short for Beauregard?”
Ross gave Harrison a sideways glance as his Sergeant grinned. “Only my Pappy called me that when he aimed to take a switch to me.”
The Major peered up at the two taller men. “What can I do for you?”
“We’re working with Colonel Bradshaw on the physicians’ case.”
“I didn’t expect anybody on that one for a couple of weeks.” He glanced toward the file room door. “I imagine you want to find out about the files.”
“Yes, sir, what is your procedure here? We want to get the information we need without upsetting your routine.”
“After you give me a list of the files you need, my staff would either bring it to you here or deliver it to your office.”
Ross handed Major Worth his list. “These are the ones we need.”
Worth glanced at the list. “What we have right now on each of them is minimal. Just the basics. Their service record, current status, face sheet, and such. As you investigate, the files will become more extensive. Let’s go on back so you can see the operation for yourselves.”
As they approached the file room door, a woman with shoulder-length blond hair pushed a cart piled with boxes past the doorway.
“Gretchen, just a moment, please.” Worth’s call halted her trek. She turned, her eyebrows arched, and she smiled. “Yes, Herr Major?”
“What have you got there?”
“More files for Prosecutor Harris.”
Worth turned to Ross and Harrison. “He indicted Hermann Goering. Trial starts this week.” He turned back to Gretchen, whose eyes locked on Harrison. “Is that the Goering file?”
“Part of it. There are two more cartloads. The trial starts tomorrow, and he wanted his people to review this one today.”
Ross shook his head. “That’s all for one guy?”
“The investigator could have found more on the guy, but…” Worth shrugged. “Like you, they started with one of our folders and built the rest. The man had his fingers in everything. Might be things there you can use in your own case. I’ll tell his people you might want to check with them.” He turned back to Gretchen. “Thank you, Gretchen. These two gentlemen will work with Colonel Bradshaw. Before resuming her trek, Gretchen treated Harrison to a smile.
As they trailed Worth past several desks, they approached a woman with shoulder-length brown hair facing away from them. As they neared, Worth called out. “Justine?”
As she turned to face them, Ross froze in his tracks, while Worth continued strolling towards her. As if puzzled by Ross’s action, she frowned before turning back to Worth as he passed her Ross’s list. “Could you bring these files to me, please?”
She glanced at the sheet, then back at Ross. “Yes, Major. It will just take a moment.”
Ross watched as she strolled through a door to the side of the room. She stopped before she entered, looking back at the men again, then disappeared.
Ross turned to Harrison, wondering if he recognized Justine, but Harrison’s eyes remained on the blonde’s retreating figure.
Ross turned back to Worth, who scowled at Harrison’s attention to Gretchen. “How many investigators were working on the Goering case?”
Worth’s head snapped around to Ross. “I am not sure. Several others are being tried along with him. It seemed as if a regiment worked on that case, but they intend to make it a showcase since they didn’t have Hitler to try.”
Harrison nodded as Gretchen disappeared from sight. “They even had that Hollywood guy put together a movie for it. Me and some guys from the Constabulary saw it. Real gruesome, but not as bad as seeing it for real.”
Worth cocked his head. “You were in the camps, Sergeant?”
“I accompanied General Eisenhower on one tour, and it horrified me.”
“The Captain and me liberated three. It’s somethin’ I never want to see again.”
As Justine returned with a stack of folders, she placed them on the desk. “Here are ten of them. I will find a box so you may carry them more easily.”
With his eyes following her every movement while she unfolded a cardboard sheet to form a box, Ross wondered if she might be the woman they met on the road. Could he be wrong? He turned to Worth. “That might be enough for now. I’ll come back later for the rest.”
“Nonsense. Justine will deliver the rest after she has them assembled. With over twenty to investigate, you’ll need all the help you can get. You might also talk to Bradshaw about some help since there’s only the two of you. You’ll need more.”
Harrison strode to Justine’s desk. As he helped her place the folders in the box, Harrison said nothing to her. Showed no recognition. Could he be wrong? Maybe this woman merely resembled the woman they met on the road.
After Harrison hoisted the box, he turned to Ross. “Got `em, sir. I’ll meet you upstairs when you’re finished here.”
When Ross turned back, Justine had disappeared.
“Yes, we recruited them when Denazification was at its zenith. All Jews and determined to do this job well. Don’t hesitate to ask for their help, they are reliable.”
As Ross entered their conference room, Harrison glanced up from the file he studied. “Didn’t know what to say, sir, when I saw her. You recognized her too. Right”
“You think the Major knows he has a warrior princess working in his office?”
“He knows she’s Jewish. That got her the job.” Ross dropped into his desk chair. “Not sure she recognized us, but I thought it might be best to not talk to him or her about it there. Maybe later in private.”
Harrison held up one folder. “We’re gonna have plenty to do. None of these are more than an inch thick. We got a lot to do before we’re close to the boxcar that’ll match what they had for that other trial.”
“Worth’s right. I better talk to the Colonel about gettin’ us more bodies if we’re gonna be ready by Spring.”
Harrison glanced around the office. “If we get more people, we’ll need more room too. Right now, all we have is this room and our two offices.”
“Gotta be somethin’ available in this barn. When I looked around earlier, there is a lot of room, it’s just a mess right now.”
When Ross returned two hours later, two more boxes set on the table.
Harrison glanced up from his pile of notes. “So, what did the man say?”
“He didn’t expect me for two weeks. According to him, they will start expanding our offices tomorrow. They’re sendin’ us a platoon. They’re wrapping up investigation training at this special school the Constabulary set up at Sonthofen.”
“When do they get here?”
“First part of next week.”
Harrison made a sweeping gesture across the boxes. “Our friend brought the rest of the files. She said nothing, and I didn’t ask. I figure that’s something you should do.”
“It’ll be tough, but after summoning up my leadership courage, I’m sure I can tackle that objective. She is gorgeous, and this seems like a legitimate excuse to have a private chat. I am surprised, Sergeant, you didn’t seize the opportunity heroically, as you’ve done in the past.”
“Well, Sir, R.H.I.P.”
“True. Rank Has Its Privileges, but again I am surprised you didn’t seize the position when you had a chance.”
“And lose a chance to get in good with my boss? Besides, I like blonds with a little more flotation here.” Harrison grinned while cupping his breasts. “She’s not much more than a good handful.”
“You’re not suggesting I ignore the edicts forbidding fraternization with the local Germans, are you?”
“A reconnaissance in force may be more appropriate. Remember, the last time we saw her, she carried a burp gun.”
After several hour’s study, Ross rose and stretched. “There isn’t a lot in these files. We’ll have a lot of work to gather the evidence for indictments. Plus, we’ll get stuck with a bunch of new investigators to train at the same time.”
“I thought you said this bunch is being trained.” Harrison paused, grinned. “Oh, right, this is the Army.”
“Exactly. Tomorrow we can talk to the investigators from the current trial. They might have some stuff that might help us here.”
“Sounds like a plan. “What do we do about these files?”
Ross scowled. “Hell, I don’t know. No one say anything to you?”
“Like I said, the girl didn’t say squat when she brought `em. What did the Major say?”
“He didn’t. I’ll call down and find out.”
Harrison slapped the phone on his desk. “They ain’t hooked up here yet. They promised to have `em connected tomorrow.”
Ross turned to the door. “I’ll run down and see while you box `em back up in case we have to return `em.”
After finding the file room locked and Worth’s desk vacant, he trudged back upstairs.
“I guess we just secure them the best we can for the night. Do the doors lock?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a key. I’ll get one for you tomorrow. Also, I got us a Jeep. You can drop me at the enlisted billet and take it on to your place tonight.”
“I thought there were streetcars?”
Harrison glanced at his watch. “Not this late. The Jerries all have to be inside before curfew, so they shut down the trolleys to give the conductors a chance to make it home before then.”
“Yeah, you’ll hear the sirens. Only applies to the Germans, so you don’t have to worry.”
After locking the office and securing the Jeep from a locked compound, Ross drove while Harrison gave him directions. As they passed the streetcar stop, the Jeep’s headlights illuminated Justine striding down the street. As Ross stopped next to her, she stepped back, wide-eyed, afraid.
“We work upstairs.”
She stepped closer. Harrison lit his Zippo, held it up to his face. “Justine, right? You need a ride?”
As the fear melted from her face, she smiled, “I worked late and missed the last streetcar. I might not make it home before the curfew.”
Ross turned to Harrison. “But if she’s with us, that won’t be a problem, right?”
Harrison nodded. “Yeah, they’ll figure we’ve already apprehended her.” He moved to the Jeep’s back. “Climb in front. Us peasants can ride in the back.”
She chuckled, placing the bag she carried on the front seat floor as she settled into the seat. Then paused as she studied Ross’s face.
“I’m the new guy here in town, so you guys need to give me directions.”
After she gave them her address, Harrison groaned. “My billet is just down the street. My tail bone won’t stand that long of a ride on this back seat. The officer’s billets just a half klick further on this street. I’m sure you’ll be able to find it after you drop her off.”
Ross shook his head as he drove, recalling Harrison’s earlier comments about him and Justine. He wondered now if this might be the Sergeant’s attempt at playing cupid. As Harrison promised, they arrived at his quarters in minutes.
Before heading up to his billet, Harrison turned. “If you park this thing in an unsecured area, remove the distributor cap. If you don’t, it’ll disappear. Also, take the spare gas can with you. They might siphon off the gas.”
“The Major failed to mention your name when we met earlier. I am Justine Rothstein.”
“We’ve met before.” She sat up straight, peered at him as the Jeep moved down the street.
“I looked pretty grungy then. You may not recognize me all cleaned up. I led the group that liberated the camp at Mauthausen.”
“You’re that Captain?”
“James Ross. At your service, ma’am.”
She shook her head. “I am sorry. I thought you looked familiar, but I could not place you. I might have been rude to you before.”
“Well, you called me General, even though I am only a Captain. A mistake, perhaps, but hey.” He shrugged. “Only a fool argues with a woman holding a submachine gun.”
She laughed, squeezed his knee, sending a course of electricity through his body, almost making him jump. “Was the Sergeant with you then?”
“Yep. It’ll break his heart if you don’t remember him either.”
“I kept looking at you today because you looked familiar, but as you say different. Then you looked so ferocious.”
“So, I clean up nicely?”
Her laugh warmed his heart. “Yes, you look better all cleaned up. You must have lots of girls chasing you.”
“Not that I’m aware of. So how long have you been in Nuremberg?” He slowed, then downshifted as he steered around a large rubble pile in the road.
“I grew up here. I returned after the surrender.”
While Ross drove through the ruined city, they talked about what they each had been doing since they parted in Austria. She omitted her work for the Russians and the Brigade. Eventually, they arrived outside her building.
“Are you hungry? If you like, I have some cheese and bread here in the bag. Would you join me for dinner?”
As he gazed into her eyes, words failed, so he nodded.
Once he removed the distributor cap, she beckoned him to follow. “Be careful on the stairs.” She took his arm as he climbed lugging the gas can. “I no longer have the machine gun, but you must behave yourself, none the less.”