Krüger stared out the window of the train, watching as the French landscape passed by in a blur of greens, blues, yellows, and browns. He’d had a few cups of bourbon on the short ride, but it wasn’t enough to make him forget what he held in his left hand: a telegram from Düsseldorf, the city he and his wife and daughter - Maria and Heidi - called home. He’d waited for something from home ever since the last bombing raid, and at first, he thought this was what he prayed for, until he read it. It was a notice, saying that the two of them were missing. He knew full well what that really meant: it was just a nice way of saying they hadn’t found their bodies, yet.
He got the telegram as he was leaving for the train station, and ever since, he couldn’t seem to get his mind off of it. Losing his wife and his daughter now, so soon after he was informed his son Dietrich died in his sleep on the eastern front, was a real blow. He knew what he was going to have to do, though; he did the same thing a few weeks ago, when he first found out about his son. He wasn’t going to take some time off or go to counselors like Bömelburg told him to do: he was going to lose himself in his work. He was going to work hard and forget about what happened to his family, like he did when Carte went down.
“Would you like more bourbon, monsieur?” Krüger looked to the side to see a young, beautiful attendant standing there, holding a half-empty bottle of bourbon in her hand. She had a pleasant smile on her pale, radiant face, but it still felt hollow to him; the only women that looked at him pleasantly were either members of his family or simply didn’t know he was in the Gestapo, and she didn’t fall into either category.
“I don’t know,” he said. “How much longer until we reach Paris?” The attendant looked down at her small wristwatch.
“I’d say we have about ten minutes,” she said.
“I’ll just have a water, then,” he said, handing her the bourbon cup. She nodded and walked away, taking the cup with her.
Krüger ran a hand through his hair. He hoped they would have something big for him to do when he arrived.
“Why are you dressed like that?” When Krüger looked to the side at the voice’s owner, he saw it was a little boy, one that looked to be seven or eight years old. The woman next to him - presumably his mother - was holding a young baby. “Are you a soldier?”
She looked at Krüger, then at her son, horrified. “Andre, be respectful!” She looked back up at him. “I’m so sorry, monsieur.”
“It’s alright,” Krüger said, looking back at the young boy. He couldn’t help but smile at the eager look in his eyes. “I suppose I’m a soldier of sorts.”
“What kind?” he asked, even more excited. “Have you ever killed anyone, before?”
“It’s alright,” Krüger said again. He looked over at the little boy, again. “No, I can’t say I have. I’m more like a police officer, really.” He cocked his head to the side.
“So, you’re in the army police?” he asked. Krüger nodded as the attendant came back with a cup of water.
“Does that mean you arrest people in the army?” the boy asked.
“Only if they’ve done something against the law,” Krüger said.
The boy frowned. “Why does the army need police?”
“Andre, I think that’s enough questions, for now,” the mother said quickly. She looked back over at him apologetically as her son looked down at his toy soldiers, again.
Krüger nodded slightly, hoping she would know he didn’t mind her son’s questions, and looked back out the window. They were going past buildings, now, signaling that they’d entered Paris’ city limits. The city reminded him of Fresnes in a few way: buildings older than his grandparents mingled with stoplights and honking car horns. Yes, it was quite similar to the town he’d just left, but it was almost night and day difference. Paris was a sprawling city, with all sorts of different shops and cafe. He’d been very excited to work there during the fall of Carte, and he knew he would enjoy working there for the foreseeable future.
He took a few sips of water as he tried to relax. What would they have him do, here? Did they need some extra help looking for Jews, or have they already found more spies after eliminating the last network? It was all very exciting, exciting enough that he was momentarily distracted from all the things that had happened in his life over the past day or two.
Just a few minutes after he’d noticed they were in the city limits, the train began to slow to a stop in a train station.
“Bienvenue a la gare de l’est,” someone said over the intercom. “Welcome to east station.”
Krüger set his glass down and stood up, grabbing his luggage from the shelf above his head. This was the stop Herr Bömelburg told him to get off at.
Once he got off the train, he began to look around. The station was fairly empty, considering the fact they were in one of the biggest cities in the world, so it was easy to find the person Bömelburg had sent to pick him up; the young officer was wearing his Gestapo uniform, as well.
Krüger walked towards him. “Are you the one that’s supposed to meet me?”
He looked over at him. “I presume you’re Herr Krüger.” he held his hand out to him. “Gunter Albrecht, at your service.”
“It’s a pleasure.” They shook hands. Albrecht lead Krüger outside the station and to a black car parked out in front of it.
“I don’t suppose you know much about what I’ll be doing here, do you?” Krüger asked as they got in the car. Albrecht hopped into the driver’s side seat and turned the car on, making the engine rumble.
“Bömelburg didn’t mention anything, no,” Albrecht said as he pulled away from the curb and began driving towards headquarters. “I guess he didn’t think it was important for me to know.” He turned a corner and began heading down a large street, one lined with cafes and stores with colorful awnings. Krüger looked at each one of them, wondering about whether or not he would end up at any of them.
Then, he saw a bookstore, one with a blue and white awning. He hadn’t realized he missed books until he saw it; the only book he brought was a worn out edition of Mein Kampf.
“How much free time do you have here?” Krüger asked as they passed the store. Albrecht shrugged.
“It depends,” he said. “There hasn’t been much as of late, with the business with Carte and all. We’ll probably have a lot more, now that we’re finished with all that.” Albrecht stopped at a stoplight as it turned red, despite the fact that he was the only car on the street.
“I think you’ll enjoy it here,” Albrecht said. “People always think that work here is intense all the time with how big our district is, but it really isn’t. It’s a lot of shuttling Jews and Communists off east, with the occasional encounter with the resistance.”
“I was actually hoping for something a little higher pace,” Krüger said. “We hardly did anything the last place I worked.”
“Now, I didn’t say we didn’t have anything to do; there’s still plenty of work to be done,” Albrecht said. “It just isn’t going to be fast moving.” They pulled over to the curb beside a building, with a blue plaque that said 11 Rue de Saussaies.
“Welcome to headquarters,” Albrecht said as he stopped the car. He pulled the keys out of the ignition, killing the engine, and the two of them stepped outside. The air was chilly, just as it had been back in Fresnes before he left. “I think Herr Bömelburg said he would be on the second floor; something about a strange transmission.”
“Strange transmission?” Krüger asked, suddenly excited as they walked towards the building. That was usually how they found spies and resistors.
“Yeah,” Albrecht said. “He didn’t tell me much about it, though; I guess he isn’t so sure about what it means, himself.”
A Nazi flag was the first thing that greeted Krüger when he walked into headquarters. Men wearing uniforms similar to his were walking past each other, seemingly rushing to something. A few carried documents, others briefcases, and some didn’t have anything in their hands. There was even the odd woman, likely the secretaries of high ranking men like Bömelburg. Krüger didn’t notice much of it right then; he was too curious as to what awaited him on the second floor.
As it turned out, the second floor of the headquarters was one giant room, filled with radios. Operators sat at each one, tapping messages on morse keys and receiving them through headphones. Bömelburg stood behind one particular operator, one with blonde hair, pale skin, and an acne problem, the puss-filled, red lumps covering his forehead and dabbling his chin. He also had a large Adam’s apple, one that bobbed up and down as he spoke to Bömelburg.
Bömelburg looked up at them as they came in, a slight smile. “Welcome, Herr Krüger; impeccable timing.” He motioned them over to the radio.
“What’s going on?” Krüger asked as they reached the radio. “Has something happened in Berlin?”
“N-no, sir,” the radio operator stuttered. “It’s a message from Paris, but I don’t think it’s one of ours.”
Krüger perked up when he heard that. Not one of ours?
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, I tried to put it through one of our enigma machines to try and decode it, but it didn’t work,” the operator said. “Either someone who isn’t in our army is sending messages with a radio transmitter, or someone’s started using a new code without informing the rest of us.”
Krüger couldn’t help but smile just a little. He liked what that meant.
“Gentlemen,” Bömelburg said. “It appears we have more spies in our midst.”