As he drove by the building, a young boy ran in front of his car. Obsessed with the child’s tight bottom, he nearly missed the chalk mark on the wall. These desperate little ones filled the streets. Easy targets. He relished the struggle and the fight, not the sex. His lust for power fed this fetish. He would return later to check his mailbox. Now he sped up to overtake the boy trotting down the street. Abreast of the boy, he rolled down the car’s window. “Please, I need directions.”
The child stopped, turned in his direction. “Where do you need to go?”
“Why there? It is much damaged.”
Mundt shrugged. “I went there many times as a child, and I thought it would be good now to just see it. Some day you will want to go and look at things from your time now.”
The boy scoffed. “Piles of bricks? Why would I? I would rather see a whole house with people.”
When Mundt held up the chocolate bar, the boy’s eyebrows rose. “But you know where it is?”
His eyes riveted on the candy bar. The boy nodded. “It is far.”
“Perhaps you could show me the way?”
Mesmerized by the candy, the boy edged close to the car. Mundt held the bar higher. “Come, show me the way, and it’s yours.”
Without another word, the boy scurried around to the passenger door. As he slid inside, Mundt passed him the confection. “After we find it, I will give you another.”
As the boy munched on the chocolate bar, Mundt drove down the street, scanning the side streets. Any deserted dark alley would serve his purpose. Allow him to achieve his conquest. God, these street urchins made it so easy.
Ahead a deserted alley showed promise, he turned in. Busy with the treat, the boy showed no reaction until Mundt stopped the car. Puzzled, the boy glanced around. Without a word, Mundt shoved the child against the door. Pinned his small arms behind his back before securing them with the cuffs from beneath the seat.
“Let me go!” The boy struggled to break Mundt’s grasp.
The boy’s strength no match for Mundt. He gripped the boy’s neck. “Hold still, or I will break your neck.”
As the boy’s struggling stopped, Mundt pulled the boy’s pants to his knees.
While Mundt fumbled with his own trousers, the passenger door flew open. A flash of light blinded him. He brought his hand up to his face as a second flash made him blink, almost in pain from the light’s intensity. Suddenly the car door opened behind him. A hand seized his collar, jerked him from the car, and dragged him, stumbling across the alley.
As the hand released his collar, a dark figure slammed him against a wall so hard he briefly saw stars.
In the faint moonlight, the Sergeant working for Ross sneered into his eyes while holding a knife to his throat. “You slimy piece a shit. I shoulda let the Partisans have you back in Austria!” Harrison’s eyes narrowed, his teeth bared. “Where’s the handcuff keys?”
“I-In my coat pocket, here.” Mundt’s knees trembled as his eyes focused on Harrison’s blade shimmering in the moonlight. As he reached for the pocket, Harrison slammed the knife’s butt into his cheek. The stars, still flashing before his eyes, swirled.
The hand now groping his pocket made him realize he had two assailants. Behind Harrison, a woman’s shadow passed to the car. Her blond hair caught the moonlight as she unshackled the child. Freed, the boy dried his eyes. After scooping up the child, the woman rushed up the alley, away from the site.
Harrison drew his blade across Mundt’s throat, leaving a long bleeding scratch. “I knew you would fuck up soon, and I would catch your ass, red-handed.” Harrison hissed in the dark. “Here’s the deal. You will pay Zwolf a weekly salary, plus double any back pay he’s due. He has a weekly appointment with my Captain, which you will have no problem with. Do you understand me so far?”
Mundt said nothing, just nodded. Harrison then brought the blade up across his cheek. “I always heard you Heinie bastards liked to have these dueling scars like that. Maybe I should do you a favor and take your eye too. A nice eye patch might make you look more like the Nazi swine you are.”
Mundt quivered as he tracked the blade’s path around his eye.
“We took some nice pictures tonight of you in action. Do you think they might please your boss’s Fisher or Butler if they saw them? Now, if I find out you gave Zwolf or the Captain any crap about this. Or if you breathe a word about our little discussion here tonight, I will make sure they get copies. Might even post them in the hallway. I understand if you fuck up, they might hand you over to the Russians. But no matter where they send you I will make sure you don’t go with all your parts. Do you doubt me?”
Silent, Mundt shook his head.
“Have a pleasant evening then, Commandant. You might empty those drawers. The smell might embarrass you around real men.” Finished, Harrison shoved him against the wall. Stunned, he slid down the wall as Harrison strode off.
Seated in the snow, surrounded by the odor of feces, Mundt still trembled as a Jeep started outside the alley. When the Jeep’s noise faded away, he inched up to his feet. Once he pulled down his undershorts, he cleaned himself the best he could with snow.
Finished, he stumbled to his idling car. His face throbbed where Harrison had struck him. By the car’s dome light, he studied his face in the rearview mirror. The red welt on his cheek would be black and blue by morning. The cut while bleeding appeared superficial.
His hands trembled as he lit a cigarette. Doubtless, the Sergeant would make good on his threats. He had seen the man’s disdain for his comrades after they had been butchered in Austria. Had seen him savagely attack the detail, punishing the camp informant. He must do as the man requested. But he would get his revenge.
After backing from the alley, he drove to the marked mailbox he sought before the boy distracted him.
Pleased that the street appeared deserted, he parked the car. He walked to the wall, where he removed the loose brick beneath the chalk mark. After he retrieved the paper inside, he replaced the masonry then rubbed out the chalk mark.
Inside the car, he read the agent’s note. He had been lucky. Shortly after re-activating Martha, her new Russian controller had contacted her. Mundt then traced that person to the owner of the trucking company, who Mundt arranged to supply the house in the forest. Mundt knew this man, Herr Moeller, would send the word up the line. To whom, Mundt had yet to discover. But that didn’t matter for now. Herr Fisher had been adamant. He wanted the Russians to know about the men in the forest. Why? He had no clue. Eventually, it might become apparent, but for now, as in the past, he followed orders.
In the covered Jeep’s passenger seat, Justine snuggled against Ross’s shoulder as he drove through the darkened streets.
After glancing back to make sure his car remained behind them, Ari, seated in back, leaned forward. “I am glad you accepted my invitation. I hope you enjoy our little gathering. When Justine came, I drove. Naturally, she would not remember how to get there.”
“How could I resist after you gave up your warm ride to give us directions.” Ross replied, “I still get lost in this town.”
“I must confess to a selfish motive. If I convince you both to emigrate, I might get a promotion.”
“You see?” Justine smiled back at Ari while squeezing Ross’s hand. “He can never just be nice to be nice. He always tries to gain some advantage.”
They pulled up outside the large house with all its windows lit up. Despite the cold, the crowd again spilled out on the porch.
“You can park here.” Ari glanced back to make sure his car that followed them had room to park behind them. “You also don’t have to worry about disabling your vehicle or about the gas being stolen. This is a safe neighborhood.”
Justine held her seat forward to enable Ari to climb from the back. As Ross came from around the other side, Ari squeezed Justine’s hand, gave her a conspiratorial wink. Together the three strolled up the sidewalk, climbed the stairs, passing through the crowd gathered there to make their way inside.
As before, people jammed the foyer. Ahead, the crowd stood or sat on the winding staircase to the second floor. While eating and drinking, the crowd’s conversation and laughter echoed in the vast hallway.
Inside the ballroom, Lowe stood near a large table packed with food and wine, engaged in an animated conversation. As they entered, he turned away from the tall, bearded man, with long curls from his sideburns streaming down below his hat’s brim, and rushed to embrace Justine. “Ari told me you were pining away for me. I am so happy you could finally come here since they can’t do without me here.” He gave her a peck on the cheek. His eyebrows rose as he turned to Ross. “I have heard a lot about this ferocious American warrior. I have no intentions towards your woman other than that of a doting uncle, no matter how much she seems infatuated with me.”
“This man, who is so much in love with himself, is Abraham Lowe.” Justine took Ross’s hand. “Abraham, this is Captain Ross.”
As the two shook hands, Lowe sized Ross up with his eyes. After releasing Ross’s hand, Lowe took Justine’s arm and led her back to the man he talked with before, leaving Ari and Ross alone.
“Come, try the punch.” Ari nodded to the food table where a large crystal bowl contained a deep red liquid. After ladling out two large glasses, he handed one to Ross. “I hope this has at least a little fruit juice.”
Ross sniffed, then took a small sip. “What a strange taste, but it has a real bite.”
“You must be careful it is very potent.”
“What is it?”
“I am not sure. The Lithuanian partisans brew it from a combination of local fruit. They claim they can also use it as tank fuel.”
“You’ve got quite an international collection.”
“Yes, the Nazis uprooted everyone. Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Czechs, and even some Russians like that Hasidic Rabbi, Abraham and Justine are talking to.”
Ross shook his head. “It’s like that everywhere in Europe now. People wandering, looking for homes, families, even countries.”
“It is more than that. The Nazis are fleeing everywhere and being welcomed with open arms around the world. South America, the Middle East, The Russians, and your own country. You know about the Ratlines?”
“The people helping Nazi’s escape?”
“There is more going on than that, I assure you. But I am sure you know all about it.”
Ross shrugged, unwilling to share his recent discoveries. “Nothing certain. Rumors, nothing more.”
“It is more than rumors, Captain. We Palestinians have no stake here now, but we watch and listen to what the greater powers are doing here. When the British leave Palestine, the surrounding countries will invade us. They mean to drive out the Jews. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, all of them want the Nazis to help them deal with their Jewish Problem. So, we are trying to find out what is going on.”
“What have you learned?”
“I understand you were at Mauthausen.”
“Yes, my unit liberated the camps around there. There was a big factory where they used inmates to build jet fighters.”
“Did you see the factory?”
“We pulled a guard detail there before the Russians came into claim it as their territory.”
“So, you saw the trucks that came with all the specialists. You saw them dismantle the planes and equipment there and haul it away.”
“They kept things under wraps, but that would be consistent with what my men saw.”
“That is going on all over. The Americans and the Russians are stripping everything. They moved whole factories to Russia. All this equipment and technology now sits there rusting because they do not know how to make it work. Jet planes and rockets stored in American warehouses, gathering dust, useless. Now they need the people who built and designed these things to make it all work.”
“Well, I know the President ordered that we use no Nazis who contributed significantly to the war. Wouldn’t that rule out the United States being involved in this?”
“That is being done? Really?”
“I guess. I’ve seen deviations from that.” Like Mundt working for Butler upstairs, he thought to himself. “I suppose there might be good reasons for making exceptions.”
“Like Kranesburg Castle, yes?”
“Justine mentioned it the other night after you had left, but I never heard of it before.”
“Kranesburg Castle is where all the high-ranking Nazi scientists are being interrogated. The word is as soon as they can have their Nazi records cleansed, they will go to work in America.”
“Captain, do not be naïve. They take the current record, destroy it, and then substitute a clean record. Probably have forgers working on this around the clock.”
Suddenly he pictured Zwolf working in Butler’s office. The Nazis used his skills for forgery. Could his people do the same?
“The Russians also hunt these people for themselves.” Ari moved close, his voice almost a whisper while his eyes darted around as if he feared being overheard. After removing a note from his pocket, he slipped it to Ross. “Here is a list of people your people and the Russians are seeking. Read it later.”
“What will this tell me?” Ross pocketed the note.
“Check the names against the files at the Ministry. I am sure you will find it interesting.”
“Why are you telling me this? Even if what you say is true. Wouldn’t it be better to just share this with people in American intelligence?”
“You may not realize there are many on your side who do not share your loyalty. Communists who might sympathize with the Russians. Others enrich themselves, selling anything they can. These people would be worth a pretty penny. I need to pass this on to someone I trust. I feel that it is you. After you see what is there, you might know who can be trusted and so on. This way, we get the information to the right people. We are not a country yet, so we have no diplomatic channels. We have to rely on these personnel contacts.”
“But why do you care whether the Russians get these people or we do?”
“Someday, we will be a country. When we do, we will need friends to survive. The Russians have never provided a safe place for our people, even under the Czars. Courting them to help a Jewish homeland wastes our time. If we help the Americans now, they might support us later in our time of need.”
“You two are looking too serious. This is a celebration.” Both turned at Lowe’s interruption. “Captain, you need to pay attention to your young lady before some other young buck moves in on her.”
As Ross strode away, Abraham trailed him with his eyes. “Did I give you enough time to finish your business?”
“I believe so.”
“Can you tell me what you two are up too?”
“Abraham, it is safer if you do not know some things.”