PACT WITH THE DEVIL

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

While gazing in the mirror as he shaved, Ross recalled his evening with Justine. After dinner, she made tea. Over many pots of tea, both lost track of time as they talked about their lives. When the rising sun streamed through her window, she glanced at her clock. “Unless I leave now, I will miss the trolley.”

“This is my fault. I gabbed too much. How about if I take you in the Jeep?”

She frowned. “How would that appear?”

“Got any ideas?”

“If I change and you drive me to the trolley stop, I should make it on time.”

Once he dropped her off at her trolley stop, he raced here to his barracks to get cleaned up before reporting.

Blurred with fatigue, his red eyes stared back at him as he guided the razor around his features, working to minimize amputations and nicks. He tossed back mouthwash, hoping to soften his leathery tongue. In addition to the tea, while eating they split a bottle of wine between them, he hadn’t felt like this since his unit’s V - E Day celebration. Finished, he donned a fresh uniform before heading down to the mess, hoping coffee and food might help him make it through the day.

After eating, he drove to Harrison’s barracks. As Ross stopped, Harrison tossed aside his cigarette and trotted to the Jeep.

Harrison grinned as he studied Ross’s face. “Would your mother approve what you did last night?”

With a scowl, Ross shoved the Jeep into gear before he took off with a lurch, jerking Harrison back in his seat. He glanced at Harrison out of the side of his eye. “A look like that can be considered insubordination. As your commanding officer, I order you to stop having those kinds of thoughts today.”

After folding his arms across his chest, Harrison leaned back in his seat, grinning. “Damn, I thought so. If you got lucky once in a while, you wouldn’t be such a hardass to work for.”

After leaving the Jeep in the fenced-in lot, they arrived at the Ministry stairway as Justine walked up from the streetcar stop.

After doffing his cap, Harrison greeted her with a half bow. “Good morning, Fraulein! You made it home safely last night?”

With the sun behind them, she visored her eyes with her hand and smiled. “Sergeant, I must apologize for not recognizing you yesterday. I am so glad we will work together.”

Harrison leered at Ross before he bounded up the stairs.

“I enjoyed last night.” Ross trailed Harrison with his eyes. “But you have to let me return the favor. Let me take you to dinner somewhere. My treat.”

“Not tonight. Like you, I need some sleep.”

“Do I look that bad?”

“No, but I am sure everyone will know you were not home last night. What will your Sergeant think of me?”

“I ordered him to not have any thoughts about you and I. So, that’s taken care of.”

Her laugh, music to his ears. When she squeezed his arm, his heart leaped.

A car pulled up next to them interrupted their conversation. The thug Ross spotted in New York stepped out of the passenger seat to open the back door. As Colonel Butler emerged from the car’s backseat, he glanced first at Justine, then his eyebrows rose as he turned to Ross. “You came back to Germany?”

Butler’s companion retrieved a box from the car’s trunk. As the burly man passed them, headed up the stairs, Butler nodded. “Is your office here?”

“Yes, sir.” Confused again how to greet this man in civilian clothes, Ross saluted, which Butler acknowledged with a nod. “Second floor.”

Butler pursed his lips. “Ah, the Doctors’ trial, is it? Bunch of scoundrels, the lot. Well, I might drop in when I have some time. Excuse me, I have a delivery to make.” He tipped his hat to Justine before he followed the man with the box.

“Who was that man?”

“That was Colonel Butler, the commander at that POW camp.” In Butler’s car, a second man sat behind the wheel, “He pops up everywhere. Not sure what he’s doin’ now.”

Justine frowned as they climbed the stairs. “The man with him reminds me of the camp guards.”

Outside the file room, Butler talked with Major Worth. Neither man acknowledged or noticed them. Inside, the man with the file box leaned against a desk watching the door, reminding Ross of the RCA Victor dog and the phonograph speaker.

After leaving Justine in the file room, Ross trotted up the stairs. Inside their conference room, Harrison talked to the little man that they had found at the camp. The man wore a black derby hat. At his feet was a large rectangular canvas satchel, filled with drawing pads. Several drawings set before Harrison. Both looked up when he entered. “Sir, I am sure you remember this man.”

The little man removed his hat before approaching Ross with his hand extended.

“These are some of his works. We need to buy one.” Harrison pointed to the arrayed drawings. “See one you like?”

“It is a pleasure to see you again, Captain. I hope you have been well.” Zwolf managed a shy smile as he shook Ross’s hand. “Willi sends his greetings, and even though he has no news, he hopes that you may join him for a drink soon.”

“I am glad you made it out of that place. I don’t remember all those numbers you go by.”

Zwolf gave a dismissive wave. “Oh, that is all right. Willi and I made a name up out of the numbers for me. I go by Zwolf Siebzehn.”

“That is much easier to remember.” Ross moved over to the desk to examine the drawings. “These are beautiful.”

Harrison leaned back in his chair. “If he comes here every week and we buy a picture, it’ll seem suspicious and expensive.”

“Got something in mind, Sergeant?”

“I’ll bet your mother would love your portrait done up in those fancy oil paints. Send it to her as a gift, like for her birthday or anniversary.”

Ross continued his examination. “So, he would come here once a week, and I sit while he does this portrait. That might take some time and would be a good cover for his visits.”

With a small smile, Zwolf’s head shifted one to the other as each spoke like a spectator at a tennis match,

“I’ll have to sell it to the Colonel. Not sure how that’ll set with the boss, takin’ time out to pose.”

“How `bout when everybody’s at lunch? It’s only once a week. Tell him it’s contacting an informer.”

With his mind fogged from lack of sleep, Ross struggled to concentrate. “I’m not sure we’ll need informers for this case. I’ll go see him now. Who knows? Since we’re not in a big rush, he might go for it.”

*****

Justine yawned as she sorted through the files on her desk. Major Worth continued his discussion with the man Ross called Colonel Butler. Occasionally, as they talked, Worth glanced at the man leaning on the counter. Finished, Butler beckoned his partner to follow as he left the area. While Worth trailed them with his eyes, he fidgeted with his tie.

Finished with the folders on her desk, she approached the box left by Butler’s companion. Worth’s head snapped around. “Don’t worry about those.” His jaw set, face flushed. “I will file them myself.”

His tone made her flinch. Puzzled, Justine turned to Gretchen. She shrugged and resumed working on the files before her.

As Major Worth hefted the box to carry it back to the cabinets, Gretchen leaned close to Justine. “I saw you this morning with that new American.” She glanced towards Worth’s retreating figure, winked. “Handsome.”

Justine’s cheeks warmed. “He’s nice. He invited me to dinner.”

“Too young for me, but he has a nice butt.” Gretchen leaned closer. “Do you think he might introduce me to that good-looking Sergeant of his?”

“Since we have only just met, it might be premature to make such demands. I will suggest it if I get the chance. His Sergeant seems like a nice man as well.”

“Who needs nice? I want a man who knows what to do and is not afraid to do it. The Sergeant appears to know what a real woman might need and be willing to supply it.”

“You are awful! But if you are so set on him, take the next batch of files upstairs. That way, you might not need my help.”

“That might not be a good idea. It’s been too long for me. The urge might take me. I might ravish the Sergeant right there on his desk, and that would mean trouble for both of us.”

After Justine slapped Gretchen’s shoulder, they erupted in giggles. As he returned with the empty box, he gave them a puzzled frown. “Did I miss something, ladies?”

“No, Major!” Gretchen stole a glance at Justine. “Justine was just talking about a funny man she saw on the street this morning.”

“Oh? Perhaps you can tell me about it later at lunch. I enjoy a good story myself, and a good laugh might be what I need today.” Worth set the empty box on the desk, ran his hand over his head. “Justine, I apologize for my tone earlier. My day didn’t start well, and I took it out on you.”

“It’s all right. In fact, that man you were talking with before is the man we talked about. He seemed so serious, and he had that gangster with him as if he or the box might be some secret weapon.”

“The man might seem strange, but he is not one that you would find funny if you knew him better. In fact, you should avoid him altogether. Anyway, again, I apologize for my earlier behavior.”

As the Major exited, Gretchen again leaned close. “I wonder if the Major will mind the new Americans poaching on his harem. Of the two of us, though, I think he has the biggest eyes for you.”

Justine scowled, glanced toward the door. “He is a happily married man. He is just nice.”

*****

“Colonel Lionel Bradshaw. The man who successfully prosecuted Nazi War Criminals now wants to make sure your city streets are safe,” Bradshaw said aloud as he stared out the window at the street below. A contented smile drifted over his face as he beheld the clear winter sky. Yes, they would announce his name for the debate just that way.

A former Assistant District Attorney, he coveted this assignment. His springboard for a return to civilian life. He would resign after he finished this trial in time for the primary election for District Attorney in his hometown. This notch on his belt would make him a shoo-in over that hack who held that office for years. A knock on his door interrupted his thoughts.

After opening the door, the clerk glanced back, making sure no one snuck past his guard post. If you wanted to see the Colonel, you came through him. No other way. “Sir, Captain Ross would like to see you.”

Bradshaw strolled to his desk. “Send him in, Sergeant.” Once the clerk shut the door, as he settled in his chair, he spread papers out in front of him.

As Ross entered, he saluted.

After returning Ross’s salute, Bradshaw cocked his head. “At ease, Captain.” He steepled his fingers before his face. “Everything in order? Are you getting what you need?”

“Yes sir, I wanted to talk to you about what you might consider a personal matter.”

“Sit down, son. What’s on your mind? I’ll decide if it’s personal or not, and even if it is personal, maybe I can help.”

Ross told him about Zwolf and how they had rescued him from the camp.

“So, this man is here in Nuremberg, working as a street artist.”

“Yes, sir, he is good. I wanna help him out by offering him some work until he gets his feet on the ground and settled. Plus, my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary is coming up next year. So, I want to commission Herr Siebzehn to do my portrait. When it’s finished, I’ll send it to them since I can’t be there in person.”

Bradshaw smiled. “What a noble act on your part.” He shrugged. “I fail to see a problem with it.”

“We’ll need to put in a lotta time, and I wouldn’t want that to interfere with my duties by taking time away to sit for this portrait.”

“Why don’t you have him come here? Then you could be available while the man does his work?”

“Would that be acceptable, sir? Others might consider it pretentious for a Captain to do this on duty.”

Bradshaw frowned. “Pretentious?”

“Yeah. Patton got a lotta crap for doin’ the same thing, and I’m sure no Patton.”

“Nonsense. In fact, if the man is as good as you say, I might have him do one for me. Do you think he would mind?” Bradshaw’s mind swirled. A portrait by a Concentration Camp survivor would play very well with the Jewish enclave on the east side of his home town. That, coupled with his successful prosecution of these Nazis, would guarantee his election. “Have you got some examples of his work?”

“Yes sir, he left a few for my Sergeant. They’re on his desk right now.”

“Well, let’s take a look, son.” As they moved to the door, Bradshaw clapped Ross’s back. “I like your initiative. We’ll make a hell of a team.”

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